Young engineers with winning careers at TfL part 2

The British summer holidays are a time for relaxing, having fun and often, nervously awaiting exam results. For college and sixth form students, their grades are often confirmation of what university they will attend and for final year undergraduates, it’s knowing whether their years of research and hard work has set them up for the career of their dreams.

Fast-forward a year and these graduates could already be winning awards for their work in industry, which is exactly what has happened to Raphael, Avantika, Charles and Kristian on the engineering graduate scheme at Transport for London (TfL).

We caught up with them to find out what inspired them to pursue a career in engineering and how they think more young people could be encouraged to get into the profession. You can hear from Raphael and Avantika here or read on to see what Charles and Kristian had to say.


What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

Charles: I got asked that question in an interview once and joked that my interest in the industry stemmed from when I bought the album ‘Roger the Engineer’ by the Yardbirds, but really I think it was initially just my interest in building things. When I was younger I built a tree house in my garden, and then later I went on to do design & technology at school where I built things like tables and wardrobes. Engineering is just essentially a scaled up version of that. The only difference is that instead of building a tree house I’m now working on building a station – all the principles are the same!

Kristian: I actually wanted to become an architect for much of my school career! I loved the design of large scale infrastructure from skyscrapers to bridges. I was fortunate that maths and physics came naturally to me and it was my neighbour who first mentioned civil engineering as an option to consider as well. After some research, I agreed this was the right direction for me!


What are your future aspirations?

Charles: I’d like to continue working on major projects such as Bank, and hopefully in the future get a chance to work on some major projects abroad – I’ve always had half on eye on both America and Australia.

Kristian: I want to be an outstanding project engineer with world class projects to my name! I’ve worked across the project lifecycle; from working in design offices, on construction sites as well as being a maintenance engineer. I enjoy the challenges which arise at all stages and feel project engineering best allows me to take ownership from start to finish. I also want to be the person people feel they can come to for technical help when necessary. I tended to be this guy at university and enjoyed helping people.

Charlie Naylor wins 2nd prize on the night.

Please give us an overview of the project you entered for the competition. What aspects are you most proud of? What were the challenges?

Charles: The project I entered was the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade. The project is a tunnelling project in the city, and is currently scheduled to be finished in 2021. The aim of the project is to reduce journey time and increase the capacity of Bank station through a new entrance on Cannon St, a new Southbound Northern Line platform, a new passenger concourse, additional escalator access, and a new moving walkway link between the Northern Line and Central Line escalators.

One of the aspects that I was involved with was the construction of a new Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing cable shaft within the existing station. The biggest challenge with this was having to work within the station while it was still open to the public. Works had to be planned accordingly to ensure that there was no disruption to the station passengers, or to the London Underground network.

Kristian: The main focus of my report was my work on Stonebridge Park drainage upgrade. I was very fortunate that my manager trusted me to take ownership and run with it. I carried out hydraulic analysis to determine the optimum solution, I pioneered the best construction methodology, I negotiated the award of the work with the contractor and worked with them throughout construction to achieve a successful delivery.

London Underground is a very specialised and safety critical environment and sometimes contractors are caught off guard by our requirements. A challenge on this project was to coach the contractor in getting the necessary documentation to meet our expectations so it could be signed off. As a client, I feel it's important to maintain a constructive approach to relationships for the good of the project. My proudest achievement was taking the project from calculations I scribbled on paper to construction and handover all within programme and budget.


What new engineering skills have you developed during the past year?

Charles: I’d say the ability to work to strict deadlines. Due to the location and nature of this project, it is absolutely vital that we stay on programme, in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, we have to ensure that all night shift works in the station are complete and tidied before the station opens at 5am, to ensure there are no delays to the daily running of the London Underground network. In the long term, we’ve had to ensure that we stay on programme so that we don’t affect other key future milestones.

Kristian: I believe TfL's engineering training schemes are second to none in the opportunities and support available. I've driven improved tender processes as part of a new engineering contract. I've been able to work with a major contractor to ensure high safety standards on one of our large construction sites. I’ve also worked with senior figures within TfL looking at how we can drive better flood risk management across the business. Technical skills are important but I find the best engineers are those who also develop their wider skill set.

Kristian Cuipa wins 3rd prize.

Given the current drive for more young people to study STEM subjects to support the growing engineering skills gap, how would you inspire today’s young people to enter the industry?

Charles: I think the most enjoyable aspect of working as an engineer is being able to see the construction and use of something that you’ve designed or worked on. Being able to physically see a shaft, tunnel, building or bridge be constructed, and then further down the line being able to see it being used on a daily basis, is something pretty unique to this industry.

Kristian: I think programmes such as the BBC’s ‘The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway’ are absolutely brilliant for showing the public what we do and how exciting engineering can be. I really hope this series has inspired some future civil engineers!

I also feel role models play an important part and we struggle with the fact we're in a very male dominated industry. Women represent an enormous talent pool and I worry girls are put off by the male to female ratio. We need to continue to strive for greater diversity in engineering in order to show all young people they are most welcome to join us.

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